Today, when I am at Dr. Dave’s, The Car Doctor, leaving my car for repair, I mention that I am going to call my eighty-six year old mother to come and get me.
Dr. Dave’s bushy eyebrows and his black hair shoot straight up in the air, he jumps away from me and shouts, “Oh, My God! Is your mother still driving?!”
He remembers what happened last time I called my mother to come and get me from his shop. He saw it all.
She was late and I was waiting impatiently by the curb. She drove up onto the sidewalk. “Yohoooo, Honey, I’m here!”
I jumped back real quick then jumped forward and hopped in the passenger side. Mom bumped off the sidewalk into the road and skimmied the car around the corner.
I screamed, “Stop! Oh my god, Stop!’
She did, but seemed puzzled.
She had almost run over someone on a bike and another person walking across the street. I had to explain it to her above all the yelling from the pedestrians.
Mom put her foot on the gas pedal and drove me home. It was the most terrifying car ride of my life. It was almost like the woman couldn’t see or hear.
We got to my house and I was trembling. “Mother,” I said, “you’ve always been an indifferent driver but you truly scared me, today. Can you see OK?”
“Well,” my mother admitted, “I guess I really can’t.”
That’s when we found out she had cataracts and was practically blind and that’s when we found out she was ‘profoundly deaf.’
We got the eyes fixed and we got her a good pair of hearing aides and we gave her some rules.
“You can’t leave town,” we kids said, “and you can only drive where there are stop lights.”
I turn to Dr. Dave now and say, “Don’t worry. She’s always been like this. It’s nothing new. God must protect people like her because I don’t think she has ever had an accident.”
Here is how my mother has always driven a car:
When we were little kids, Mom would take all of us to the grocery store with her. One day in particular, she pulled out of the grocery store lot, with the six of us kids all crammed into the station wagon with the many bags of groceries.
I happened to be looking out the back window. By golly, the woman was backing up and heading toward one of those long concrete things that you pull up to in some parking lots.
Mother was rushing the back end of the station wagon toward that concrete as fast as we kids chewed gum. It didn’t look right to me.
BAM! BAM! BUUUMP! KABUMP! BAM! BAM!
Mom ran the back end of the car right over that mound of cement and kept on going.
BAM! BAM! BUUUMP! KABUMP! BAM! BAM!
Mom then ran over the cement with the front end of the car. She didn’t stop. She whipped the car around and headed into the street.
I was yelling, “Mother, Mother! Mother! Something bad happened!”
“What happened?” my mother said.
“You ran over something.”
Mother declared that she had not.
“But, Mom, there’s something running out from under the car, all the way down the street!”
I was leaning over the back seat, peering at the road, watching something dark and wet splash lavishly along behind us.
I started screaming that something very bad was wrong with the car.
Finally, Mother said, “Oh, alright….” and pulled into our town’s only gas station.
The old guy, Mr. Burgett, who ran the station, came out to pump her gas, check the tires and the oil, wipe the windows and chat.
He was a friend of the family, as everyone in town was. There were 1200 people and we all felt related and we all knew each other’s business.
Finally, I leaned out an open window and said, “Mr. Burgett, Mr. Burgett, Mom ran over the cement thing in the parking lot and something is wrong with the car.”
Mr. Burgett got down on his knees and looked under the car. I think I heard him say something like, “Jesus Christ.”
When he stood up, his eyes were rolling around like beads on a plate.
“Margaret, didn’t you notice you took out the undercarriage in the car?”
No. Mom hadn’t noticed.
Another time I remember riding with Mom and ahead in the road was a deep, wide hole with red flags and wooden saw horses all around it. I thought, ‘Oh, surely she sees that huge hole and is going to stop or go around it!’
Nope, she aimed right for it and didn’t blink. It was like we were playing chicken with a cavernous hole in the road. Finally, I screamed like I’d been shot and Mom flipped the steering wheel and we musta’ gone around that hole in the road on two tires.
I was left panting in the front seat while holding my heart.
My mother said, rather accusingly, “I saw it.”
When Summer was a little kid, about four or five, we took my mother to lunch in another town. She was driving, which was foolish to begin with.
I remember we ate Chinese food.
After lunch, we all got in the car with Mom at the wheel. I wasn’t alarmed in any way. Why should I be?
We were parked with the sidewalk in front of us and next to it on the other side was a row of thickly planted bushes and another sidewalk was on the other side of the shrubs and beside that was the paved road.
Mom started the car, put it into drive and drove forward, right over the sidewalk, through the bushes, over the other sidewalk and turned right onto the paved road.
I am not kidding.
And, she never blinked. She never acted like a terrible mistake had been made. She was puzzled when I caught my breath and started screaming.
Summer and I still talk about that outing.
When I was a kid, Mother sold real estate. I remember one couple she had as clients.
Mom had driven them around to see houses and when she drove them back into our drive way and they tumbled out of her car, I heard them whispering, “My god, did you see that two ton dead possum she rolled right over in the road! She didn’t even notice! Did you feel that huge bump! Kerplunk! Bump! And, she kept right on chatting and driving…like she didn’t notice a thing.”
That couple became friends and they adore my mother and they still talk about the two ton possum.
When I grew up and had my own house, just down another road from mother, I had her drive me home one day.
She turned off the highway onto my road, and why I thought she would notice, I can’t say, but there was a huge ditch by the side of my road and my mother took that car and jumped the ditch and kept on going!
I started screaming (again) and mother (as usual) couldn’t understand why I was hysterical.
When my father got old and went blind, she walked him places, the same way she drives cars.
He’d have to hold on to her and trust her and the poor man! I was with them one day when when she walked him straight into…and over…a big bush that happened to be growing where they were walking.
She didn’t notice the bush but he did when he fell right over it and rolled on the grass.
Sometimes people say, “You still let your mother drive! Are you crazy?!”
Well, she is just the same as she always was. Her driving is no different now then it was when I was a kid.
The last time she went to the DMV she passed her eye test and her book test 100%. She told me everyone in the place stood up and cheered for her.
Now, how can you tell a woman who gets a standing ovation at the DMV that she can’t drive anymore?
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